Hey Snugbug friends! Jeff and I have been on the road and living in our Honda Odyssey minivan for just a bit over two weeks now and we thought it high time to take a lot of super not pretty photos and share our setup, what’s working, and what isn’t. For those of you new to the snugbugs, we’re a husband and wife team who, with our faithful basset hound, Peppermint, have made the move to living full time in our Honda Odyssey minivan. Our plan is to stay out at least through this fall at which time we’ll either decide where we might want to settle down in a house or apartment or we’ll start shopping for a slightly larger van-like vehicle and stay out on the road on a more permanent basis.

So far, we’re totally leaning towards upgrading our van and staying out on the road. But more on that later, today, it’s van tour time! Get ready for lots of pictures… this is a long one!

The Pantry

Since there are two of us we went with a layout with our kitchen in the back ‘hatch’ of the Odyssey and our bed taking up the rest of the van. Below, see what our pantry looks like while we’re settled in — when we’re traveling we have our Coleman stove and water stashed in here as well, but generally ‘cook’ on a table, and not right in the van. 

The wood shelf is the Ivar Shelf unit from Ikea. As you can see, the shelf is set into the floor of the van. Our particular year (2004) stows the third row of seating in the floor which we removed, giving us a bit of extra space for supplies. The Ivar units have a shelf size that fits well in the space we had at 33″ wide and 20″ deep. The unit we purchased was 70″ high which we had to cut down to close the hatch. The space under the bottom shelf currently houses a few things we don’t use often — dirty laundry and the like. We are thinking that we will buy a portapottie before we head out west to more off-grid boondocking, and that space should be big enough to stash our moveable loo. 



All the baskets and bins came from our very-extensive collection we already had. The large basket on the top shelf holds our dishes, pots, and pans. The basket to the right on the top has all of our coffee and tea things. The other woven baskets are where we stash most of our food, with ‘pantry’ like items on the wire shelf to the left. 

minivan camper kitchen

See those wood boxes on the second shelf, over on the right? Those are bamboo trays meant to be used to organize drawers. I think they originally came from World Market — I’ve had them forever. They are REALLY AWESOME in this space — all of our silverware and utensils are stashed in them and they slide in and out easily plus they stack. Highly recommended to get something like this if you are setting up a similar kitchen. Sorry, since I’ve had them for so long, no links!

One change that’s happened is the white plastic basket on the bottom shelf. That basket is full of all my ‘potions’ for my face, along with deodorant, hair ties, and a comb. Originally, this basket lived in the front of the van under the console between the seats. I imagined that I’d take care of hair and face while sitting in the passenger seat so I could use the mirror. But, since heading out, we’ve decided to have the hound sleep in that spot, so there’s usually puppy blankets and baskets up there and it’s just easier to have it in the back of the van. It gets stashed in the front when we’re fully packed and traveling, but other than that — it lives in the ‘pantry’!

To the left of the wood shelf is a small wire unit we ordered from Target (it wasn’t in the stores, we looked!). It’s the perfect size to go with the Ivar shelf — it’s 20″ wide by 7″ deep. The well in the Odyssey is about 40″ wide by 20″ deep at the bottom, so the 33″x20″ Ivar + the 7″x20″ wire shelf is a very tight fit. We connected the two shelves to each other with zip ties. The stability comes from the weight of the shelf and the plywood piece behind that creates a ‘backsplash’ for the kitchen and also serves as our headboard on the other side. 

The wire shelving is for the true pantry items — vinegar, oil, honey, siracha and dry goods which are stored in Mason jars. We went with mason jars in part because we like the idea of using glass over plastic over the long haul. Also, this shelf has lots of height, so the tall, skinny jars make better use of space than plastic storage — or, at least the containers we looked at which were tended to be wider but shorter. 

Two more things of note! First, the little white bins are from Ikea and are part of an on-the-wall storage system. They are meant to be hung on bars that are similar to towel bars. But they are super useful to hang on anything — I’ve used for years for storage in my office and sewing room, so we had a nice stash. We each have one for toothbrushes and other toiletries (again, we’ve found we tend to take care of those things kind of behind the fan for more privacy) and we use the others for more food storage — apples, potatoes, jars of tahini….

Secondly, while we wanted to use glass for our pantry storage, we didn’t want to listen to it clinking away while driving so I bought a couple sweaters at Goodwill and made sleeves for all the bottles and jars. These sleeves all happen to be cashmere, so they are super-swanky. They’ve stretched a bit already, so I’ll need to restitch to tighten up sometime. It works pretty well, although is definitely a pain how they are stretching.

Next, on to refrigeration. We decided early on that we didn’t want to deal with the power requirements of a cooler or refrigeration. We’d rather shop more often than be able to stock up. Plus, we’re finding that we are eating a more vegetarian diet (not 100%, just more) now that we’re out on the road. As such we decided to go with an RTIC 20. I’ve snapped a picture with my yoga mat so you can get a sense of the size and included a picture of what we have in there. It’s ice day, so it looks a bit on the empty side!

The cooler is working out just fine. Regular cube ice needs to be replaced every three or four days. We’re on the lookout for block ice, but haven’t come across it yet. This size is fine for two adults who aren’t super focused on having a large stash of eggs, bacon, meat, etc. As you can see here, we have half and half, berries, yogurt, mayo, a little cheese, carrots, and hummus. There’s room for a bit more, but when we replace the ice, a lot of the space will be gone. 

Overall, we’re pleased with what we got, although when (if?) we move to a larger vehicle, we might consider going with a larger size. RTIC’s next larger size is 45, although Yeti has a middle size that we might look at. So pricey to pay for that Yeti name, though!

The Bedroom

Welcome to our bedroom! One thing I can say about this is it’s SUPER comfortable!! Our bed is a platform of 3/4″ plywood with a frame made from 2×4’s. Jeff is 6’1″ and I’m 5’10”, so we were concerned about height and length and didn’t want to create an uncomfortable night’s sleep since we’re doing this full time. 

The Honda Odyssey is 48″ wide in the back at the narrowest point, so a piece of plywood fits fine, width-wise. We cut the 8′ board down to 70″ and at night fold the front seats up a bit for some extra room. The length works for us, although I occasionally feel a bit squashed — I sleep behind the driver’s side, which doesn’t fold forward in the same way the passenger seat does for Jeff!

We didn’t take any photos or keep any details of the frame, but it was a fairly simple assemblage. There are ‘feet’ on all four corners as well as in two places in the center of the bed, plus Jeff added a full 2×4 along the floor at the head and foot of the bed for extra stability. 

The height is where we were really concerned! Jeff is much ‘taller’ than me when he’s sitting down — if I remember correctly, he’s about 32″ from tailbone to top of his head. The overall height from floor to ceiling in the Honda isn’t all that tall — I think it’s perhaps 48″ in the center where it’s tallest. We wanted a fairly thick mattress for comfort, which didn’t leave us with a ton of space under the bed for clothing storage. I believe the general measurements from floor to ceiling are 11″ from the floor to the top of the platform, 2″ of foam, 8″ of mattress, and 27″ from the top of the mattress to the ceiling. The mattress squishes down enough that we can sit upright on the mattress.

We ended up with 7″ of clearance under the bed for our totes (the 2×4 frame took up the rest of the 11″ overall height of the platform). There are a couple more inches available on top of the totes once they slide under the frame. On top of the platform we have a 2″ piece of regular foam (not memory foam) and on top of that, this amazingly comfortable mattress that’s meant for a futon. The mattress measures 74″ long x 53″ wide x 8″ tall. Since it’s squishy, we can both sit upright on the mattress, although our hair brushes the ceiling. Also, if’ you’re planning a similar build, note that the actual footprint for the mattress is 70″ x 48″ — even though the mattress is a bit larger, it squashed in just fine. 

The photo below, taken while we were still setting everything up, shows our headboard, sidebins, and curtains a bit better. We painted the plywood which separates the ‘bedroom’ from the ‘kitchen’ with white paint on hand, just to make it a bit nicer. The bins are from Ikea and part of the on-the-wall storage system I mentioned. This is nice for the little bits that you tend to leave on your nightstand at home. Jeff ‘lined’ these bins with plastic beaded shelf liner so they don’t rattle while we’re driving.

I made the curtains with the heavier ticking on the inside and horrible poly crepe on the outside which is black so that it’s less obvious when we are in the van with the curtains down. We mounted them by using hooks already in the van and a few little teacup hooks. Instead of firm ‘rods’, we mounted on 3/4″ jute rope, which worked well, except for that back curtain, which really stretched under the weight and we’ve already taken down — it was just too much of an expanse with no support in the center. We talked about adding a wood support coming up from the kitchen shelving which is on the other side of the headboard, but at the end of the day, when we’re in the van, you can’t really see into the ‘bedroom’ from behind the van because the hatch door blocks us well enough. 

Here’s the view from the side. We created a ‘dust cloth’ just to keep everything tidy. It’s just extra fabric I had in my stash that we stapled to the bed platform. It’s already pretty dingy, so at some point will probably rip out what’s there and either wash or tack in new fabric. 

See the clothespins??

I use the clothespins to tack all the bedding out of the way and get to my ‘closet’. We went with storage bins that are 7″ tall that just slide under the frame. There’s a bit of extra clearance on top of the bins, so I have another more shallow storage bin for undies and socks that I slide in on top of the larger bins. 

We each used two bins for clothing (four total). I counted and have 38 items of clothing with me — one bin is more regular ‘clothes’ and the other is yoga pants, t’s and tanks. The last two bins are filled with first aid supplies, towels, extra sweaters and bathing suits. 

The Kitchen

While we’re in camp, we kind of spread out a bit! We use a Coleman stove and one pound propane bottles. We’re going through about two bottles per week, mostly for boiling water for coffee! 

The stove was given to us by a friend of Jeff’s mom’s and we’re super grateful… that said, we were looking at the slightly higher-end stoves that regulate the flow of propane better and are more efficient. What we have now works for us, though! 

The blue water container is seven gallons and we use for cooking and Peppermint. Where we’re staying now has potable water, but it’s hard (mineral-tasting) and I can’t drink it, so we’ve been buying large one and 2.5-gallon jugs of spring water for drinking. 

Coffee is a favorite for Jeff and me, so that came with us out on the road. We talked about getting a goose-neck kettle for our pour-over Melita, but ended up opting for a classic blue enamel coffee pot. Because it’s cute and we were curious if we’d like percolated coffee. I have to admit… we haven’t tried perking yet. I don’t know if we love this coffee pot — the cover fell off already once (easily reattached) and Jeff says he thinks he can see rust forming in the pour spout. I guess time will tell! Water boils fairly fast in the pot and we’ve gotten the hang over how much coffee we like, so our morning coffee remains a ritual.

The Office

Since I have a marketing business, power and internet are pretty important for us! We opted for a Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium power unit. When we first started talking about how we were going to keep our laptops powered up we looked at a few different options. We rejected gas generators immediately. Not only do we not have room, but even if we did we don’t care for the noise or smell. 

There are a lot of people who install a power system using large batteries that can be recharged from the car battery while driving and/or solar. These systems are a lot cheaper than what we went with, but we didn’t want to put something ‘permanent’ in the van since we don’t intend to be in the Honda long-term. Plus, learning how to put together one of these systems takes a bit of study that I found a bit intimidating, although there are a ton of tutorials and there’s always the option of having a professional help out. 

The Goal Zero system is a lot more expensive, in terms of total power, compared to the hardwired systems that a lot of folks use, but it’s very easy to use (literally, plug and play). The power unit in the picture below houses the battery and you can plug regular power cords, USB and 12-volt cigarette style plugs right into the unit. The battery is recharged via our solar panels or we can plug it into an electrical outlet to recharge as well. 

So, while we made our decision based on ease of install and not wanting to put something permanent in the van, we’ve ended up very pleased with what we got! First, our battery is lithium, which means that we can run it all the way down to 0% without worrying about hurting the battery. Second reason we like our setup is its portability. A lot of vans have their solar panels installed on the roof, while we opted for a portable ‘briefcase’ panel (100 watts) that can be moved around — meaning our van can stay in one spot in the shade while we move the panels around for the best light. We paid a little extra for a extra long cord to connect the power unit to the panels, which gave us even more flexibility. Also, the actual power unit only weighs 14 pounds, as lithium batteries are smaller and lighter than some of the other options we looked at. This means that I can work anywhere and have power — I’m not stuck working in the van if I need to charge my laptop during the day. Plus…. on hot days I can bring my little fan out with me while I work — it clips on the Yeti perfectly!

The little round thing on the lower corner of the solar panel is our solar lamp, which is inflatable and we love!

Another surprisingly awesome thing we got that adds to the workday is our camp chairs! We’d brought some chairs with us that were smaller and more portable, but decided to take along our rooftop carrier, which gave us a bit more room, so we went looking for better (and bigger) chairs. 

We bought these ridiculously large chairs from Walmart — they are the ‘big and tall’ version with a weight limit up to 500 pounds! I took a picture with my laptop on the chair to show how big it is. 

Guys, we love these chairs! They are giant so I can sit tailor-style in them with no trouble! Plus, the back comes up high enough to rest our heads against. They’re also pretty tall — my feet swing if I sit in the chair properly!

I’m so, so glad we went for bigger, better chairs. We probably talk almost every day about how much we love them, which is a good thing, since we’ve traded a whole house full of furniture in for one camp chair each! 

So there’s the basics of our setup! I didn’t take pictures of Peppermint’s cozy setup because it was already pulled apart for the day. Suffice to say, we really didn’t want a big dusty hound-dog taking up half our bed, so we rigged up a night-time bed for her that she loves! We have extra shoes in a wicker trunk that fits right in front of the passenger seat. We cover up the seat with a special Peppermint blanket and put her big pillow on top of everything. She’s very happy and cozy and working on jumping up all by herself, although needs a boost from Jeff to get all the way in!


Keep up with our adventures on Instagram or check out past vanlife posts on our blog. Or if you’re a Facebooker (like I am) connect up with me, or follow our page, Three Snugbugs for more van and 3 Snugubugs updates.  Note: links on this page may or may not be affiliate links, meaning if you click and buy, we will get a bit of money with which to purchase insect repellant and hound dog treats!

 

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